Naked On The CTA: Those Who Laugh Last Are Just Mean

Okay. I guess what gets me roused out of a stall here at An Unquiet Chicagoan is a good old-fashioned grrr out. I'm sure if you live in Chicago, by now you've heard about the woman who held things up for a bit on the Red Line at Granville on Saturday afternoon.

To briefly summarize, a woman boarded the train completely naked, and started saying things indicating that she was completely delusional. You can also say psychotic, but for some reason that makes people ONLY think of the Patrick Bateman types and not your regular person who is suffering from a delusion/psychosis like ... they are "the goddess of the train."

Okay. Let's start off with some pretty standard givens. Unless it's a nudist colony or some sort of orgy, people do not go around in modern-day America naked unless:

  • they are crazy drunk
  • they are on drugs
  • they are in some state of delusion (or like three years old or under).

So, rolling up on public transpo naked is always a big hint that something is NOT RIGHT HERE.

We can also be pretty confident that people on the internet

  • think they are terribly funny
  • can be mind-shatteringly cruel
  • hide behind anonymity as an excuse to say whatever they want.

That being said, the comments on CTA Tattler's article on the incident (also linked above), have a higher percentage of care for the woman's well-being smattered inbetween the jokes about Ventra and how hot she is. However, many sites, including the Sun-Times Facebook and various tweets and whatnot, seem to be aimed at taking shots at the woman and the predicament she found herself in.

My first question is this -- the police had to have known what they were coming to get the woman for. Why not bring a blanket or extra jacket? She clearly was literally out of her mind. Was it extra punishment to parade her through the train station and allow her to be photographed naked?  Did it help that she did happen to be a woman in great shape? What if she was overweight or a man or not so fine? Would they have been so eager to let her let it all hang out?

And jail. Hmm. Something tells me they'd still have been able to put her up on charges after taking her to the nearby psych ward and ensuring that she got help, saw a psychiatrist, got on meds, if necessary. (WGN reported that she was taken to a hospital, so I hope that remains true.)

But I guess I don't get the general mob mentality of wanting to laugh at people. Okay, I'll take a stab  -- we want to laugh at things that make us uncomfortable. Turn tragedy into comedy. Make ourselves feel better than the sick specimen before us, and by doing so, hope that we will never find ourselves as low as that. Maybe that's where people are (subconsciously) coming from.

Me, I don't understand it. I've never been one to get being mean to someone or something that can't defend itself. Or being mean for being mean's sake. That's why I have to believe that it's born from fear and anger, but mostly from fear. Cause that's all we're really riding on here -- fear and love. We pick one or the other in everything we do or say.

So, I offer up a challenge when you see that mentally ill person on the train or walking down the street, or the potentially mentally ill homeless person asking for change -- what if? What if that were my mom or my child or my aunt or my best friend? What IF that were me? What would I want someone to do? How would I want them to act?

Now, I've lived in the city for 16 years. I've had to develop a much thicker skin than I walked into the city with. But it's not armor. I've never let it get that thick. So, while I can't give money to everyone, and my bullshit meter is much more finely tuned than it was 16 years ago, I've also been diagnosed with a mental illness and spent a week in a psych ward. I've become intimately acquainted with the depths of depression and the signs of mania -- both in myself and in others. I have recovered from addictions and I have seen them ravage and destroy the lives of those around me.

So, I know that life is amazing and sublime, and it is also dark and messy and complicated. Despite my tendency to break everything down into black and white and strict, definite judgments, life is wild and divinely deranged, and never quite what it seems.

It is always better to err on the side of kindness and love. It is always better to err on the side of peace and compassion. It is always better to err on the side of giving and helping. Don't laugh at people. If you can't directly help, then at least remain quiet and say a silent thought that they get some help. And know that if not you, someone you know might need help someday (soon), too.

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